Direct-to-Digital, Week 1: Practicalities

Almost a week from the day I heard Dorchester, the publisher for my November paranormal romantic suspense, decided to take their releases beginning Sept 1st direct-to-digital, and I’m approaching a place where I’ve worked through enough of the adjustment to think clearly about my growing list of questions.

Questions all authors immersed in this situation are facing, and non-Dorchester authors considering the growth of publishing’s interest and investment in the digital format(BTW, you’ll see these are market questions, not publisher-specific questions–as I said in earlier posts, my business with Dorchester, a publisher I respect full of editors I love to work with, has to stay my business until I’ve worked my way through the transition):

1) How long will it take mass market readers to shift to digital, the way LP and CD buyers have moved to digital music to the point that music producers by and large no longer cut albums?

2) How will mass market readers eventually be able browse digital content,the way they currently browse the disappearing book stores and the shrinking shelves in discount stores? I suspect innovative approaches like the publishing version of iTunes will be the answer (Again, I’m lusting after my own iPad for many reasons, not the least of which that Apple’s poised to make massive inroads into digital publishing sales and distribution).

3) How will publishers’ marketing and sales departments target and promote to the new digital showplaces for their books? Because you know they will. Give them time. And digital authors need to be on top of the trends and prepared to partner in the process.

4) How will authors continue the advances we’ve already made in promoting on our own, in cooperation with what our publishers are doing? Social media’s an obvious answer. Viral marketing. But how much is affective? How much of that effort reaches an audience that doesn’t already own a digital reader (something estimated currently to be only 15% or so of the market place)? Because that’s who we need to reach if this is going to work–readers who aren’t already e-book true believers. How do we convince a world that currently sees books as tangible things that the digital format is a quality product, too?

Achieving this is the only way for a digital-first approach to have any chance of propelling an author’s career forward. And, frankly, we’re just not there yet.

5) And once again, most importantly to authors in my shoes, how long is all this going to take? Is investing time and money and sweat and tears now into the digital transition of our industry going to pay off any time soon? When’s the right time to throw your hat into the ring and commit to being part of the surge? To being a leader in the change that’s going to consume you eventually anyway. To figuring it out and making it work and not backing away?

We’re all going to have to take risks in this. The question is, how much risk can an author absorb?

IMHO, until we make our digital books the very best books available, until readers see that the very best is coming to them digitally (because the industry’s committed to the technology above all other forms), I’m not sure the sales are going to follow the way current mass market authors want. But at some point, we have to put the work out there, so those readers that buy our books can begin to adjust.

At least that’s the reasoning swirling through my mind one-week out.

This surprise Secret Legacy review came my way yesterday , adding to the swirling.

Writing Examiner Secret Legacy Review

It’s wonderful. Amazing, actually. I’m a bit stunned and humbled. And I’m thinking… About the future, and when I’m going to get on the train that’s taking us all there.

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3 Responses to “Direct-to-Digital, Week 1: Practicalities”

  1. While I agree these are all valid points and questions. I think the major obstacle is the drawbacks to digital books of Gen Y and those that came before. Marketing from an author’s point of view is going to change drastically. It will be cheaper for one thing and easier on their backs. Travelling from town to town lugging boxes of books to sell at speaking engagements and signings will become a thing of the past. How can you sign a digital book? Technically it doesn’t physically exist. This also means there will be less in person opportunities to speak with authors. Conventions will change purpose too and really, might just disappear. People go to conventions to meet authors and buy signed copies of their books. But why would the author go to a convention knowing they have no physical books to sell or sign, perhaps in the hopes that a meet and greet with fans at an empty table will result in future digital sales?

    On top of that is the value of a publisher in marketing the book. How far will marketing go beyond the website for most books? The author will continue to most of the legwork albeit over the internet, except before when large sums of the sale revenue from a book were relinquished by the author because they believed it would be used for marketing, so much of the advertisement on the internet can be done for free. It begs the question, what exactly are you getting from the publisher for their 50% or more cut of the sales?

    I think it places a lot of authors who waited patiently for their acceptance with a print book expected as the end result in a very difficult place. Personally, I think that the books already accepted should have finished out their contracts and ran as mmpb print books with all books accepted after the shift in formats being done as digital-exclusive books. I would think many authors affected by this are put into an uncomfortable position with their dreams somewhat damaged by this decision.

    I don’t envy your position at this time. But I wish you luck and that everything works out well in the end. It is the future, I just don’t think most of us were ready for it.

  2. Renee' says:

    As a reader I heart my Kindle. The main reason is that I get to preview the first chapter of a book prior to making a purchasing decision. I have found that I actually purchase more books this way. I do not feel all of the pressure of standing in the aisle of the book store and feeling rushed. I can take my time and really decide if the book is for me or not.


    • Anna says:

      I totally understand the attraction to a reader. I’ve wanted one of my own for years, but have been waiting, wondering which to buy. Now I know it’ the iPad. Just waiting for the 2nd generation (hopefully with less bugs) to come out.

      I think the browsing that bookstores offer is the key interface that ebooks are currently missing out on. A central clearing house, for lack of a better term, where readers can come and look and easily find what they want (and publishers can market the way they currently do in “real” stores, regardless of the book’s source. Amazon’s interface is still kind of clunky–you still kind of have to coming to the interface knowing what you’re looking for. Barns & Noble’s made a good start. I think the iBook store will be the solution, like iTunes was for the music industry. We’ll see…

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